A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 23, 2013
“Never forget that your weapon was made by the lowest bidder” (military saying)

"Never forget that your weapon was made by the lowest bidder”—that is, it’s probably of the cheapest quality—was part of a jocular “Murphy’s Laws of Combat” (from an unnamed army colonel) that was printed in newspapers in 1989. ‘Never forget that your equipment was made by the lowest bidder” is sometimes given as the form of the saying.

The joke had been used earlier by the space industry. Walter “Wally” Schirra Jr. (1923-2007) probably said this to himself on October 3, 1962, as he flew the six-orbit, nine-hour, Mercury-Atlas 8 mission. As reported in the Los Angeles (CA) Times on December 14, 1962:

The newsletter Electronic Week quotes astronaut Walter Schirra: “Every time I climb into the capsule I say to myself, ‘Just think, Wally, everything that makes this thing go was supplied by the lowest bidder.’” That Wally, always kidding.

[This subject was also subsequently researched by the Quote Investigator.]


Wikipedia: Wally Schirra
Walter Marty “Wally” Schirra Jr. (March 12, 1923 – May 3, 2007), (Captain, USN, Ret.), was an American Naval Aviator and NASA astronaut. In 1959, he became one of the original seven astronauts chosen for Project Mercury, the United States’ first effort to put human beings in space. On October 3, 1962, he flew the six-orbit, nine-hour, Mercury-Atlas 8 mission, in a spacecraft he nicknamed Sigma 7. At the time of his mission in Sigma 7, Schirra became the fifth American and ninth human to travel into space. In the two-man Gemini program, he achieved the first space rendezvous, station-keeping his Gemini 6A spacecraft within 1 foot (30 cm) of the sister Gemini 7 spacecraft in December 1965. In October 1968, he commanded Apollo 7, an 11-day low Earth orbit shakedown test of the three-man Apollo Command/Service Module and the first manned launch for the Apollo program. He was the first astronaut to go into space three times, and the only astronaut to have flown in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs.

14 December 1962, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “A Telephone Line to Twilight Zone” by Matt Weinstock, pt. 2, pg. 6, col. 5:
The newsletter Electronic Week quotes astronaut Walter Schirra: “Every time I climb into the capsule I say to myself, ‘Just think, Wally, everything that makes this thing go was supplied by the lowest bidder.’” That Wally, always kidding.

23 February 1963, Moline (IL) Dispatch, pg. 20, col. 3:
Lowest Bidder
When someone asked Astronaut Walter Schirra Jr., shortly after his orbital flight, what he was thinking at the exact moment of blast-off, he replied:

“Well, I was looking down at all that machinery and equipment and rockets and things under me, and I thought, ‘Just think—all that power was assembled by the lowest bidder.’”

15 May 1963, Kansas City (MO) Star, pg. 1, col. 8:
(Datelined Cape Canaveral, FL, by the Associated Press.—ed.)
Hints Astronauts Are Not So Sure.
The probably emotions of an astronaut in orbit were related recently by Dr. Werner von Braun, direcgtor of the George C. Marshall Space Flight center, Huntsville, Ala. He said there is an unconfirmed story about an astronaut being asked how it felt to be in orbit.

He replied: “Well, how does it feel when you know your life depends on 150,000 parts, all bought from the lowest bidder?”

7 July 1966, New Castle (PA) News, ‘Rockettown” by Thad Bukowski, pg. 12, col. 2:
The Cape people, with their problems and frustrations, have developed a great sense of humor. Harris reminded us that astronaut Walter Schirra was asked what thoughts he had when he sat in the tip of the rocket just before it was fired.

“Gee, I remembered everything was made by the lowest bidder,” was the answer.

11 April 1969, Big Spring (TX) Daily Herald, pg. 12, cols. 6-7:
“Does it ever get scary?” (Reporter—ed.)
“I’ll say.” (An astronaut—ed.)
“When?”
“Well, first of all we’re sitting up there on top of a rocket 17 stories high.”
‘Yes, I can see your point. What else?”
“Well, the rocket has 80,000 separate parts, and every one of them was made by the lowest bidder.”

29 January 1971, The Register-Republic (Rockford, IL), “Ailing industry faces new blow” by Bob Considine, pg. 16A, col. 3:
Few men have consciously or otherwise produced their own epitaphs. Grissom did. A reporter once asked him what went through his mind as he lay strapped to is contour couch and heard the last seconds of the countdown tolled.

Gus nonchalantly said, “Well, I look around the cabin and realize that everything I see was made by the lowest bidder.”
(Gus Grissom, one of the original NASA Project Mercury astronauts, was killed during a pre-launch test for the Apollo 1 mission in 1967—ed.)

20 March 1978, San Diego (CA) Union, “Women Pilots, At Home In Planes, Look To Space” by Ken Hudson, pg. D-1, col. 4:
When she was first selected as a mission specialist for the space shuttle-orbiter program, she was told to remember that everything in the shuttle was made by the lowest bidder—but that doesn’t bother her a bit.

Google Books
10 May 1989, Lewiston (ME) Journal, “New officers should inspect Murphy’s cribsheet” by David Evans, pg. 6A, col. 3:
7. Never forget your weapon was made by the lowest bidder.
(From an unnamed army colonel’s “Murphy’s Laws of Combat”—ed.)

Google Books
American Folklore:
An Encyclopedia

Edited by Jan Harold Brunvand
New York, NY: Garland Publishing
1996
Pg. 736:
Some examples: “Remember, your weapon was made by the lowest bidder”; ...

18 September 1997, Augusta (GA) Chronicle, Letters to the Editor, pg. 4A, col. 6:
In the military there is what is referred to as ‘Murphy’s Laws of Combat.” The sixth law states: Never forget that your weapon was made by the lowest bidder.
(Letter by William E. Johnson of Augusta—ed.)

IMDb.com (The Internet Movie Database)
Armageddon (1998)
Quotes

Rockhound: You know we’re sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn’t it?

Google Books
By Dawn’s Early Light
By David Hagberg
New York, NY: Forge
2003
Pg. 175:
Never forget that your equipment was made by the lowest bidder.

Los Angeles (CA) Times
Walter M. ‘Wally’ Schirra Jr., 84; flew in three NASA programs
BY ERIC MALNIC
| SPECIAL TO THE TIMES |
MAY 04, 2007 | 12:00 AM
(...)
On Oct. 3, 1962, he lifted off from Cape Canaveral in the Sigma 7 space capsule for America’s fifth manned space mission and third orbital flight.
(...)
Schirra visited President Kennedy in the White House and was awarded the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Distinguished Service Medal. NASA Administrator James E. Webb told him: “No one has flown better than you.”

Asked later what went through his mind as he waited atop the 95-foot Atlas rocket for liftoff, Schirra replied with a grin: “You think, all these hundreds of thousands of parts were put together by the lowest bidder.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Saturday, March 23, 2013 • Permalink